Monday, July 24, 2017

Everything Korea, July 24 Episode: Sneak Peek--Tesla Korea: Behind the Mystique

In 2008, I was living in La Jolla, California. On Sunday mornings an automotive upstart would bring their red Roaster to the beach town’s popular oceanfront park for folks to test drive the car.

I recall it caught my attention as it quietly zoomed up the hill.  It was an electric car. For one working with OEM design teams, I felt the Design was sharp. It was cool, too.

Torque was considerable and acceleration immediate with no lag-- something l would learn came with an electric powertrain. The car was a Tesla.

Fast forward nearly 10 years, and Tesla has challenged the automotive business model not only here, but also internationally.  Here is my preview on forthcoming article at Tesla Korea 2017.

In crafting the article, my lens is Cultural.  I stop short of how I would sustain their unique position in the Korean market… although as consultant I do have that strategy and roadmap. It's what I do.

Tesla Korea: Behind the Mystique By Don Southerton

In my recent Branding in Asia article, I made the point that in the wake of the car trade imbalance one American brand may break the Korean preference for imports now held by German automakers.  That brand is Tesla.

Why Tesla?

One, Korea customers are increasingly looking to buy “green”, environmental-friendly vehicles.  Substantial government incentives have driven up sales both in domestic Korean carmakers’ hybrid, plug-in and electric vehicles and well as in imports.

Two, the demand continues for the more luxurious class of import cars. Top brands have included BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Audi, Jaguar and Porsche. Additionally, a number of “supercars” are also popular -- Aston Martin, Maserati, Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti.

From a cultural perspective, consumables can tell us much about a society.

The demand for luxury, premium goods and products has gone hand in hand with the upward mobility. In fact, these (most often Western) lux items have taken on the role of status markers.

Although some Koreans have shown concern over this desire for pricey goods, in the eyes of many Korean customers, the more expensive and rare, the more desirable the brand. These consumers equate value with a high price tag.

All in all, Tesla captures what we see unfolding as an ever-growing demand for upmarket goods and product in Korea.

My third point about Tesla is that in a culture often seen as conformity embodied, many feel the need to differentiate themselves.  It is this need to differentiate that Tesla captures so well, as it does in their home market -- the U.S.  

That said, with customer interest high and up to 6-month waits on test drives, and 3 months on delivery, Tesla’s mystique may be what is needed for an American automotive brand to truly thrive in South Korea.

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